CHCF Stockton Poised to Generate Jobs, Revenues
By Lisa Kopochinski (01/31/2011)

With California still facing a daunting 12-percent unemployment rate, one bright spot has appeared in the form of a new inmate health care facility in Stockton that will generate thousands of jobs.

At a cost of more than $900 million, the California Health Care Facility is one of the largest projects to begin in 2011 and will be paid for by a $7.7 billion prison construction bill that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in 2007.

Calling the CHCF a milestone, J. Clark Kelso, receiver for California Prison Health Care Services, said he and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation chose the Stockton location for two main reasons — it is an urban site and the state already had property there to be readily used.

The 1.2 million-square-foot subacute medical and mental health care facility is being built on the site of the Karl Holton Youth Correctional Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility that closed in 2003. Once completed in late 2013, it will house more than 1,700 adult physically and mentally ill inmates.

“It’s really about long-term care for folks who need to be in a facility a little bit longer,” says Nancy Kincaid, CDCR director of communications. “The economic benefits are estimated to be 9,200 construction jobs and about $1 billion in economic output for the local community. And the construction activities will support another 5,500 jobs in the region.”

Approximately 2,400 doctors, nurses and correctional staffers will be hired at the new facility, which is estimated to cost $300 million annually to operate.

“But, there’s actually a $50-million net reverse out of that making the net $250 million a year,” Kincaid adds. “And that is the offset cost to no longer have to transport inmates such great distances.”

Kincaid says that CDCR has an agreement with the Stockton/San Joaquin community to recruit in the local area, but she is concerned about misquotes in the media regarding this.

“State law prohibits us from saying that we will hire certain people from a certain place,” she explains. “It has to be competitive statewide. But we have committed to doing things that encourage folks in that community, which is really depressed economically because of the foreclosure crisis and economic downturn. There’s an investment in that community to educate people who are interested and recruit in that area. So we will be doing that.”

Design-Build Teams to be Selected

CDCR elected to use a design-build project-delivery approach for the facility and selected Sacramento-based architect Kitchell CEM. The firm and its subconsultants began work last August on the development of criteria documents, which consists of an architectural program and integrated security plan, design narratives, conceptual building plans, outline specifications, equipment requirements and other technical information. 

“This information will be provided to the design-build teams, who will develop detailed project designs and construct the facility,” says CDCR Project Director Mike Meredith.

The first part of construction on this project began in November 2009 and was performed by inmate labor. It included the removal of trees and light standards, demolition of small obstructions, clearing and grubbing. With this portion expected to be completed by March, the site readiness package can then begin that includes hazardous materials abatement and the demolition of existing structures, as well as the installation of construction access roads, construction fencing, construction staging areas and site management trailers. 

“DLR Architects was selected to design and prepare bid documents for this project, which is out to bid,” says Meredith. “Work is scheduled to commence in March and will last approximately six months.”

The single-story, campus-style facility — with a 300,000-square-foot facilities support services building — will include a diagnostic and treatment center flanked by inmate/patient housing/program management units. Housing units will range in size from 30 to 100 beds, depending on the acuity of the inmates/patients who reside in them.

This building will also contain labs, a pharmacy, exam and treatment rooms, a dialysis clinic and therapy rooms. Inmate and staff support functions will include general visiting, board of parole hearings, staff services, program management, and unit administration. The facility will be surrounded by a typical CDCR secure perimeter system that includes a lethal electrified fence with guard towers and controlled entry points.

Two design-build teams will soon be selected. The first design-build package (D-B Package 1) includes site work; off-site utilities and roadwork; secure perimeter fencing — including guard towers and a vehicle sallyport; officers’ building; site entrance gatehouse and armory; a telecommunications and lock shop building; central utilities plant; materials storage warehouse and related distribution infrastructure; parking areas; and other miscellaneous nonsecure buildings. The three teams that have submitted RFPs are Granite Construction and Hensel Phelps Joint Venture with HOK architects; Rudolf and Sletten and Perini JV with DLR Architects; and Skanska and Moss JV with architects Lionakis.

“The D-B Package 1 team will be selected in May 2011, and initiate work shortly thereafter,” says Meredith. “The state has established a stipulated sum of $129 million for D-B Package 1.” 

D-B Package 2 will include all vertical construction within the security perimeter, including inmate housing; a central kitchen; building maintenance facilities; a facility support services building, staff services facilities, program spaces and a program management unit; administrative offices and other support spaces. Three firms are competing — Clark and McCarthy JV with HDR Architects, Skanska and Moss JV with HKS Architects, and Hensel Phelps Construction with HOK Architects. 

“CDCR will select the D-B Package 2 team in June, with construction commencing shortly after that,” says Meredith. “The state has established a stipulated sum of approximately $500 million.”

From a design standpoint, Kitchell architect Dave Kirn says CHCF is unique in that the buildings will be simple and flexible. “The concept building designs will allow CDCR to cost-effectively address changing inmate needs as the demographics of the inmate-patient population changes over time.” 

Two Major Challenges

A project of this immensity is definitely not without its obstacles. With this project, Meredith says there are essentially two factors that make the delivery of CHCF especially challenging. 

“First, it has a complex mission and must satisfy many stakeholders in order to be successful. And it is a correctional facility, so it must adhere to the strict and specific security and operational requirements of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.”

It must also meet the requirements of four federal class action lawsuits (Coleman, regarding mental health; Plata, regarding medical health; Perez, regarding dental health; and Armstrong, regarding accessibility) to the satisfaction of court representatives.  It also needs to comply with the operational needs of the California Department of Mental Health, which is responsible for managing a portion of the facility’s mental health mission. 

The second major challenge is the aggressive schedule for completion stipulated by the Coleman court. 

“The facility must be fully occupied and operational by December 31, 2013, which means that construction must be done by summer 2013 in order to allow sufficient time for activation,” Meredith says. “Completion of a project of this scale in such a short time period is difficult under any circumstances, but given the many interests at stake, it is especially challenging.” 

“It’s an important project because the beds are needed," added Kincaid.  "It’s something that has to occur, especially on the mental health side. I think it is estimated that 20 percent of male inmates have mental illness. I’m not sure what it is for women. But it is one of the pressing needs.”

Lisa Kopochinski is a freelance writer.

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